Army’s own data mining system fails test

Palantir gets more leverage

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‘Without explanation’

In spring 2011, Task Force 10, a combined unit of U.S. and allied troops, was training specialized Afghan units in counterterrorism, then going out on missions to kill the enemy.

The paper trail rings of desperation.

“TF-10’s current battlefield visibility and information platform system limits their ability to see and efficiently share battlefield information in real-time,” said a March 2011 message from the unit’s chief of staff. “The Palantir system will significantly and efficiently increase TF-10’s situational awareness and intelligence sharing capabilities.”

A month later, the chief of staff for all U.S. forces in Afghanistan added his endorsement: “The current system does not allow [Task Force 10] to efficiently request and receive critical real time intelligence,” he wrote.

At the Pentagon, Army procurement officials were not impressed.

That May, the Army wrote back to Task Force 10 that it “validates the requirement for secure information sharing across organizational boundaries and in real-time.” But the message added that the Army “returns the request for Palantir without action.”

It said the common ground system program manager was sending new software to Afghanistan.

Mr. Hunter told The Times: “This is even one of the more egregious cases, with the Army officially acknowledging the need for the capability, but then turning down the request without explanation and instead sending servers that just sat in storage and collected dust.”

Other units in Afghanistan over the past three years have bypassed the Army hierarchy and appealed directly to Pentagon offices that can approve buying Palantir.

In a powerful endorsement of Palantir, the director of intelligence for U.S. Special Operations Command sent a memo in August to a special Pentagon procurement office seeking permission to buy Lighthouse, a mobile data collector on the battlefield, and link it with Palantir.

Using the parlance of intelligence professionals, the memo said: “Lighthouse and Palantir users are equipped to exploit structured data using link analysis, data mining” and other techniques.

It said Special Operations Command planned to deploy the Lighthouse-Palantir hookup in ongoing operations in Afghanistan, the Philippines, the Horn of Africa, trans-Saharan Africa, and Central and South America.

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